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Simply put, the varnish is a coating that protects the wood and enhances the visual appearance of an instrument. It may also be the most mysterious aspect of the violin maker’s art. Varnish that has been damaged or degraded can be restored, or “touched up”.

Every varnish is different, due to chemistry, application techniques and aging. Some are extremely delicate. Again, the maxim “preserve the original” applies.

Frequently, I will start with an examination under ultraviolet light, which helps in visually distinguishing the original varnish from subsequent layers of repair varnish and dirt. I make careful choices regarding how much of the latter two I will remove, before proceeding.

Restoring varnish requires some real artistry. My intent is to have repairs recede into the background while having the instrument as a whole present as aging gracefully.